The 20-acre sunflower field, framed on one side by the curving banks of Merrimack River, resembles the idyllic charm of New Hampshire’s rural countryside.
But Greg Pollock’s sunflowers, which stand three feet tall and have yet to mature into their vivid yellow blossoms, are growing right off busy Exit 14 of Interstate 93 in the middle of Concord.
Sunfox Farm is located on Loudon Road, directly behind the massive parking lot serving several commercial buildings. While the Merrimack River flows along one side of the field, the sound of traffic zipping by on the highway combines with the chirp of birds to fill the air.
From above, the area looks almost like an oasis in the heart of the city where nature and the concrete buildings of urban life converge.
“At first, I was a little nervous with the farm being right in the city and how that would kind of change farming for me,” said Pollock, who started Sunfox Farm on the leased land. “But it’s big enough that you still kind of get lost out there and you still feel like you are on a farm, which is great.”
When you see Pollock’s seed harvesting equipment parked right at the field’s edge, almost touching the paved road leading to nearby commercial businesses like Buffalo Wild Wings and T.J. Maxx, the gap between rural and city life is barely distinguishable.
In 2022, the city of Concord awarded a lease for part of its 57-acre agricultural land to Sunfox Farm after seeking requests for proposals. Pollock began growing sunflowers this spring.
The idea for Sunfox Farm sprouted during Pollock’s trip to Italy, where he drove across vast fields of sunflowers that had passed their blooming stage. Intrigued, he wanted to witness a blooming sunflower field in his home state, New Hampshire.
With a decade of farming experience, Pollock still wanted to learn new things and harvesting seeds was one of them. So he saw a sunflower field as the perfect venture.
Beyond Pollock’s vision for a sunflower field, it stands as an illustration to show the narrowing divide between rural and urban spaces.
In less than a month’s time, the farm will burst with color as it becomes home to a sunflower festival, which is scheduled to run from Aug. 12 to 20.
“Through our agro-tourism, in the sunflower festival, we’re able to bring people to the property and they can really experience what’s going on and see where their cooking oil comes from,” said Pollock as he prepares for the flowers to bloom.
Over the past decade, urban farming has experienced a surge in popularity, leading to the integration of crops and livestock into urban spaces, including rooftops and city centers. This growing trend of urban agriculture has sparked a renewed interest in supporting local farms and embracing sustainable farming practices.
In a time where commercialization and urban development are taking over the green spaces in many cities, Concord is determined to protect it.
Mayor Jim Bouley said while there’s interest in developing the agricultural land along the Merrimack River, he said it’s important that this parcel remains for agricultural use.
“I think what you are seeing here is not only the commitment to agriculture on behalf of the city, but it’s also looking at agriculture in a different way of non-traditional,” said Bouley.
Along with offering green spaces within the city, urban farming also drives the community to support local businesses and sustainable agriculture.
At Sunfox, environmentally responsible practices such as reduced tillage and growing cover crops like clover are employed to improve soil health.
Amber Brouillette, Pollock’s fiancée, is also a part of Sunfox Farm. They plan to provide fine dining experiences in the sunflower fields and even grow lavender in the future.
“I think it’s, it’s really rewarding when your crop blooms like that and then for people to come and enjoy that and seeing all the smiling faces,” said Pollock, explaining that growing flowers is an emotional connection. “It’s just really rewarding.”
If you go
To attend the festival, visit http://www.sunfoxfarm.org/ for more information
When: Aug 12 to 20
Where: Gully Hill Rd., Concord